Georgia’s new comprehensive election law contains a number of controversial provisions that limit access to voting.
Most of all, some people shake their heads.
Under the law, signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp Thursday night, it is now illegal to give food or water to people standing in line to vote.
“No person may in any way or by any means or method, nor may he distribute or display campaign material, nor give, offer or give money or gifts, including but not limited to food and drink, to an Elector” it says in the new law.
The law applies within 150 feet of a polling station or within 25 feet of voters at a polling station. Violators are guilty of an offense.
However, some observers see the provision as an attempt to curb voting by urban voters and people of color who are democratic and whose districts often have to wait a long time to vote.
One influential black pastor said he thought the new law was unreasonable and that his church would use it to fuel voters.
“We’re going to make a movement out of this,” said Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “You know something is wrong when you can’t give Grandma a bottle of water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
McDonald told CNN it already plans to test the law with civil disobedience. He said that in future elections his church will dare police to arrest someone who is giving water to an elderly person waiting to vote.
Attorney Walter Shaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics, also criticized the measure as an attempt to appeal to color voters.
“Georgia’s bill would make it a crime to give free food or water to voters who stand in line for hours. But we know who these politicians force to stand in line all day,” Shaub said earlier this month on twitter. “I’ve never stood in line for five minutes where I can vote. This racism is thorough.”
Republicans have defended what is known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, saying it was needed to build confidence in voting after last year’s election. Kemp said the law will “ensure that the elections in Georgia are safe, fair and accessible”.
Georgia, long viewed as a politically red state, turned blue in the last election as President Joe Biden and two Democratic senators won narrow victories, partly helped by the high turnout of black voters.
Georgia’s bill is part of a broad effort by GOP-led lawmakers across the country to pass restrictive voting measures in battlefield states like Arizona, Michigan and Florida.
Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, vowed last December – a week before the runoff elections – that the state would act against “warming the leadership” or give voters gifts to “unduly influence” voters last moments before they cast their ballots. “